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The Errand Boy; or, How Phil Brent Won Success, a fiction by Horatio Alger

Chapter 37. Mrs. Brent's Panic

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The chambermaid in the Granville household was a cousin of Dan, older by three years. She took a warm interest in Dan's welfare, though there was nothing but cousinly affection between them.

Fresh from his interview with Mrs. Brent, Dan made his way to the kitchen.

"Well, Aggie," he said, "I may have to say good-by soon."

"What, Dan! You're not for lavin', are you?" asked Aggie, in surprise.

"Mrs. Brent has just given me notice," answered Dan.

"Mrs. Brent! What business is it of her's, and how did it happen, anyway?"

"She thinks it's her business, and it's all on account of that stuck-up Philip."

"Tell me about it, Cousin Dan."

Dan did so, and wound up by repeating his young master's unfinished sentence.

"It's my belief," he said, "that there's something between those two. If there wasn't, why is Mrs. Brent here?"

"Why, indeed, Dan?" chimed in Aggie. "Perhaps I can guess something."

"What is it?"

"Never you mind. I'll only say I overheard Mrs. Brent one day speaking to Master Philip, but she didn't call him Philip."

"What then?"

"JONAS! I'm ready to take my oath she called him Jonas."

"Perhaps that is his real name. He may have it for his middle name."

"I don't believe it. Dan, I've an idea. I'm going to see Mrs. Brent and make her think I know something. You see?"

"Do as you think best, Aggie. I told her I wouldn't take a dismissal from her."

Mrs. Brent was in her own room. She was not a woman who easily forgave, and she was provoked with Dan, who had defied her authority. She knew very well that in dismissing him she had wholly exceeded her authority, but this, as may readily be supposed, did not make her feel any more friendly to the young gardener. Jonas artfully led her indignation.

"Dan doesn't have much respect for you, mother," he said. "He doesn't mind you any more than he does a kitchen-girl."

"He may find he has made a mistake," said Mrs. Brent, a bright red spot in each cheek, indicating her anger. "He may find he has made a mistake in defying my authority."

"I wouldn't stand it if I was you, ma."

"I won't!" said Mrs. Brent decidedly, nodding vigorously and compressing her lips more firmly.

Soon after a knock was heard at Mrs. Brent's door.

"Come in!" she said in a sharp, incisive voice.

The door was opened and Aggie entered.

"What do you want of me, Aggie?" asked Mrs. Brent, in some surprise.

"I hear you've been tellin' Dan he'll have to go," said the chambermaid.

"Yes," answered Mrs. Brent, "but I fail to see what business it is of yours."

"Dan's me cousin, ma'am."

"That's nothing to me. He has been impertinent to Master Philip, and afterward to me."

"I know all about it, ma'am. He told me."

"Then you understand why he must leave. He will do well to be more respectful in his next place."

"It wasn't his fault, ma'am, accordin' to what he told me."

"No doubt!" sneered Mrs. Brent. "It is hardly likely that he would admit himself to be in fault."

"Dan's a good, truthful boy, ma'am."

"What did he tell you?"

The moment had come for Aggie's master-stroke, and she fixed her eyes keenly on Mrs. Brent to watch the effect of her words.

"He said he was at work in the garden, ma'am, when Master Jonas----"

"WHAT!" exclaimed Mrs. Brent, staring at the girl in dismay.

"He was at work in the garden, ma'am when Master Jonas----"

"What do you mean, girl? Who is Master Jonas?" asked Mrs. Brent, trying to conceal her agitation.

"Did I say Jonas, ma'am. La, what could I be thinking of? Of course I mean Master Philip."

"What should have put the name of Jonas into your head?" demanded Mrs. Brent nervously.

"I must have heard it somewhere," said Aggie, with a quick, shrewd look out of the corner of her eyes. "Well, Dan just asked the young master a civil question, and Master Philip, he snapped him up rude-like. Mrs. Brent I think you'd better not make any fuss about Dan. It wasn't so much his fault as the fault of Master Jonas--oh, dear! I beg pardon, I mean Master Philip."

"Don't repeat that ridiculous name again, Aggie!" said Mrs. Brent. "Your young master has nothing to do with it. You ought to know that his name is Philip."

"I should say so!" broke in Jonas. "I ain't goin' to be called out of my name!"

"As to Dan," proceeded Mrs. Brent. "I am willing to overlook his impertinence this time. I won't say a word to Mr. Granville, but he must be more careful hereafter."

"I'm sure I'm obliged to you, ma'am," said Aggie demurely.

When she was out of the room she nodded to herself triumphantly.

"Sure, I've got the old lady under me thumb, but divil a bit I know how. It's all in the word Jonas. When I want a favor, all I've got to do is to say that word. I wonder what it manes now, anyhow."

However, Aggie communicated to Dan the welcome intelligence that he would have no trouble with Mrs. Brent or Philip, but as to the way in which she had managed she kept that to herself.

"I want to think it over," she said. "There's a secret, and it's about Jonas. I'll wait patiently, and maybe I'll hear some more about it."

As for Mrs. Brent, she was panic-stricken. Uncertain how much Aggie knew, she feared that she knew all. But how could she have discovered it? And was it come to this that she and Jonas were in the power of an Irish chambermaid? It was galling to her pride.

She turned to her son when they were left alone.

"How could she have found out?" she asked.

"Found out what, mother?"

"That your name is Jonas. She evidently knows it. I could see that in her eyes."

"She must have heard you calling me so. I've told you more than once, ma, that you must never call me anything but Philip."

"It is hard to have to keep silent always, never to speak to you as my own boy. I begin to think it is a dear price to pay, Jonas."

"There you go again, mother!" said Jonas, peevishly.

His mother had seated herself and spoke despondently.

"I am afraid it will all come out some day," she said.

"It will if you don't take better care, ma. I tell you, it would be the best thing for you to go away. Mr. Granville will give you a good income. If I was left alone, there'd be no fear of its leaking out."

"Oh, Jonas! would you really have me leave you? Would you really have me live by myself, separated from my only child?"

Cold as she was, her heart was keenly wounded, for, looking at the boy, she saw that he was in earnest, and that he would prefer to have her go, since thereby he would be safer in the position he had usurped. _

Read next: Chapter 38. An Important Discovery

Read previous: Chapter 36. The False Heir

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